Friday, January 30, 2009


American military men and machines have now been in Afghanistan nearly twice as long as the war with Germany and Japan (1941-45). It was October 7, 2001, the day we buried my mother-in-law, that our military force tore into Afghanistan, looking for Osama ben Laden and his student-followers, the Taliban.

Since then more bombs have been dropped; more of the innocents than the guilty died. So many civilians have been killed, not intentionally by Americans, that Afghanistan president, Hamid Karzai, has called on the Americans to be more careful. (He can't complain very strongly. The American troops and our tax money keep him in office.)

It seems history has it in for the tribes of the mountains and plains of Afghanistan. They have been invaded from every direction for as long as men have lived to tell it.

Before even the ancestors of the Afghanis could write, there were wars. Unearthed relics from the Bronze Age (5,000 years ago, give or take a few years) reveal war tools they made or were brought by invaders. In the foothills of the Hindu Kush the earliest evidence of domestic plants and animals. This crossroads between Mesopotamia, and lands that later became China and India each added to the their culture. The famous Silk Road went through it.

Kabal, today's capital, was founded by Aryan tribes about the time Abraham was moving to what we call Palestine. The Rig Veda, the most famous Asian literature, may have been created in Afghanistan about this time. But today, except for token efforts by some Non-government originations and some of our military, who know how to win hearts and minds, it is a long way from the 21st century and what we call "civilization."

Afghanistan gave birth to one of the great religions of the ancient world. Zoroastrianism. The founder, Zoroaster, was almost a contemporary with Israel's prophet Isaiah and China's sage Confucius. The Horoscopes in our newspapers came out of the religion of Zoroaster.

Five hundred years before Christ, Darius the Great, expanded his Persian empire to include Afghanistan. A couple of hundred years later came the Greek from Macedonia, Alexander. (He also was called "Great". Their "greatness" is being worse killers than the Sopranos.) Alexander defeated the Persians and is said to have died in Afghanistan. As with most such occupations, Alexander's time there was filled with bloody tribal revolts. Occupiers are never welcome anywhere.

A few years after Jesus the Christ was crucified in Jerusalem, the Graeco-Buddhist Gandharan culture of Afghanistan that outlived the Greek occupation, fell due to the plague of all dynasties: family and princely envy.

Moving on to the year 652, the Arabs introduced their Islamic religion and form of government. The Muslim faith and laws took root and continues to be the strongest force among most of the tribes.

In 1219-1220 Genghis Khan and the Golden Horde from Mongolia were in the process or taking over China, and invaded Afghanistan. Genghis Khan laid waste to Central Asia, even going as far as the Danube River in Europe. By the beginning of the 14th century Genghis Khan's descendants were also Muslims.

The vast area from China to Europe was fragmented. Then came Tamerlane (the terror of the plains) and his armies ruled Afghanistan from 1370 to 1404. All this happened almost a hundred years before Columbus "discovered" the New World.

Babur (who was descended from Tamerlane on his father's side and Genghis Khan on his mother's.) began the Moghul dynasty (1504-1519). were the next long-lasting power. Followed by revolts and raids up and down the land for centuries.

Much slaughter went on and continued even into the evolution of Afghanistan's modern history (1747 – 1978).

The 1800s are no more peaceful than the other centuries. The Sikhs come in; there are wars with India, Russian Empire and the Soviets in the 20th century . There were three wars with the British that lasted into the 20th century.

One of more victorious fights Afghanistan was in January of 1842. The routed 16,500 British soldiers and 12,000 dependents. The only survivor, a mixed British-Indian soldier, reached safety on a stumbling pony. Is there apt to be another such retreat by a foreign army in the future?

In 1934, The United States formally recognized Afghanistan. In 1947 the nation of Pakistan was carved out of Indian and Afghan lands. In 1954 the U.S. rejected Afghanistan's request to purchase military equipment. They got their arms then from the Soviet Union. By 1959 Purdah was made optional and women began entering the workforce and attending universities. (Purdah translates as a screen or veil and is the practice that includes the seclusion of women in most Muslim and Hindu countries.)

Nationwide elections in the 1960s came to mean as little as the Bush imposed election of recent years.

The now familiar Mujahideen movement began in 1978 was followed by a bloody Soviet coup. The U.S. ambassador was killed the next year. The Soviets occupied Afghanistan for ten years and by 1989 had retreated. Defeated.

The Taliban roustabouts took control and destroyed the ancient historical statues in the Kabul Museum, and blew up the giant Bamiyan Buddhas from the 5th century. By May, 2001, Taliban ordered religious minorities to wear tags identifying themselves as non-Muslims. September 9, two days before the suicide attack on New York City and Washington, D.C., Freedom Fighter Ahmad Shah Masood was killed by assassins posing as journalists.

The radical and rich Saudi, Osama bin Laden, was held directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban protected him and the U.S. air attacks, with too few ground troops, went after him. Most guesses are Osama is in the border wilderness of northern Pakistan (our ally?).

Reconstruction of Afghanistan has been more talk than action. The US, as of 2008, has spent more than $32 billion on assistance to Afghanistan – 32 percent of which was allocated to development and humanitarian assistance. All this is being carried out amid the fighting and a rising death toll.

If one word has been missing in the history of the people of Afghanistan it might be "peace." Today's Afghanis are a rich mixture of Greeks, Persians, Turks, Mongolians and who knows what else, but a proud people, deserving of being left alone and in peace. Today's military situation there is nothing like the battle grounds of World War I or II. It is pointless to trek out and kill a few Talibans before they run back to Pakistan. More troops to chase them away is not the answer. More killing is not worthy of our nation or a help to the peace the Afghanis seek and deserve.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Learning/Growing through life's sufferings

There are those who justify suffering as part of what contributes to making strong character. Many fine writers have written from this viewpoint. That there is value in the troubles, sorrows and traumas we encounter.

The German playwright, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is said to have said, "I never had an affliction which did not turn into a poem." I am of the opinion that much of the world's literature, even humor, has come through suffering.

Another writer has expressed it this way: "Sorrows come to stretch out spaces in the heart of joy." As Paul Billheimer says in his book, "Don't Waste Your Sorrows," it is true that sorrow has its compensations.

Billheimer goes farther to say that the rewards are but the tip of the iceberg to the many more blessings that can be fathomed. This in no way elevates our suffering to blessedness or making us saint-like beings. Far from it.

"The eye hath not seen, nor ear herd, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." This is the truth as the Apostle Paul wrote to his friends in the church at Corinth.

A good example is the experience of the farmer, Job. Probably the earliest written book in our Bible, Job is a great success for many years until God permits him to be overwhelmed with all kinds of disasters. At the end of the story Job is restored better than before.

God sees values in things we cannot understand. Suffering, like many subjects in the Bible and in our lives, remain a mystery.

Oswald Chambers, a British colonial chaplain in Egypt when England ruled there, says: "Why shouldn't we go through heartbreaks? If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart."

Success seems to be the god of these times. And if a person is successful, feels blest and strives to keep what he has while honestly working for more, that's good. But, if it all dissolves in an instant, lifetime of work vanishes, the suffering is immense.

In much of our lives, the times have not been as bad as they are today. There are the homeless, who are almost invisible to us, and there are more of them than ever. It is tragic report that many of the homeless are military veterans. Some have been that way since Vietnam. Percentage-wise more of them are from Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

There are those cheated by Enron-types (a name that will always be connected to evil – did you notice how fast the Houston Astros baseball team changed the name of their park from Enron to Minuet Maid?).

Bernard Madoff. Just the name makes us think of crooks. Such characters should be exposed earlier. Those who knew and kept silent are just as guilty. Their suffering does not compare to what the people they cheated out of life savings continues to be.

The suffering of those who have been laid off while the firing CEOs glide on with their golden parachute. The majority of the bosses are not like that. They are forced by the banks, afraid to make loans, to shut down.

The train wrecks brought by sorrow and grief must be accepted as the dark side of life. Brokenness and failure need not have the final word. "Men (apparently) love the darkness rather than Light," the Apostle John tells us. But coming to the Light, is doing what is right.

Part of the mystery: "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed..." (Romans 8:18). The parts of the mystery necessary for growing beyond suffering is in God, and available to all who will listen – and heed.

CHECK OUT MY journal at: Towery Tales

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Last Disciple & Rapture Theory

“The Last Disciple” replies to the “Left Behind” novels

“The Last Disciple” by Hank Hanegrfaaff and Sigmund Brouwer comes off the press very soon. It is a novel that gives another view of the world’s last days. A view I learned to appreciate fifty years ago at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Ray Summers’ class.

This new novel gives a more biblical response to Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind novels on the doctrine of The Rapture (which sold over 42 million copies). LaHaye’s take on the end of time comes from the 1850s apocalyptic interpretation of the Book of Revelation. LaHaye’s series is based on the notion of “premillennialism” or “dispensationalism” introduced to the modern world by in the 1850s by Rev. Dabney.

According to Harvy Cox, Dispensationalism was considered heresy in ancient times and suppressed. Dabney revived it and it has caught on today by many ultra conservative Christian believers.

The Rapture, according to Dabney’s theology and the LaHaye novels, will involve a sudden snatching up of millions of the faithful into heaven, followed by a seven-year Tribulation, during which the world will be ruled by the Antichrist, followed by the return to earth of Jesus and his triumph in the battle of Armageddon.

That is a simplified summary of the Left Behind novels that have been such a phenomenally popular publishing event. Now the same publisher, Tyndale House, is planning a new fictional series with another interpretation of the Last Days.

Revelation as penned by John the Beloved Disciple of Jesus and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, was written in a typical Jewish method using code words and phrases. It was written for the Christians who were suffering great persecutions for their faith from the Romans in the first and second centuries. It is not a book of prophecy but one of comfort. Comfort amid sorrow that will ultimately find God triumphant.

Tim LaHaye, co-author of the Left Behind novels, called the decision by his publisher “stunning and disappointing” and said he felt betrayed.

“They are going to take the money we made for them and promote this nonsense,” he said.

Author of the new series disagrees. “I am elated with Tyndale’s support,” said Hank Hanegraaff, the host of a syndicated call-in radio show, The Bible Answer Man. The first book in the new series is titled “The Last Disciple.” Additional volumes are planned.

LaHaye said, “I don’t know what science fiction he is reading. We believe the Rapture is going to come, not his nonsense that Christ came back in 68 A.D

Writer Hanegraaff replies, “I am reading the Bible, specifically Revelation written for first-century Christians. I am not relying on some wooden, literal interpretation that is unsupportable.”

Nero is depicted as “the beast” with Christians in Rome and Asia Minor suffering through a tribulation-like persecution. In the novel Nero is trying to find the Apostle John’s letter and destroy it. To survive, the early Christians must decipher a mysterious code. Nero is number 666, mark of the Antichrist.

Eschatology, the branch of Theology dealing with the end of the world, is ambiguous, highly symbolic and subject to varying interpretations.

Revelation was a polemic against the corruption, debauchery and greed of the Roman Empire. The book is meant to be an encouragement for the Christians living under persecution. Just like Ray Summers expressed it in the best commentary on the Book of Revelation ever written. It is out of print but worth searching for and reading. The title is “Worthy Is The Lamb.”
(first published Dec. 3, 2004)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


The Chinese year of ox begins Mon Jan 26

The Chinese have a way, common in Asia, of representing each New Year with several things, primarily animals. For centuries, they have used 12 different animals to represent each year completing a 12 year–cycle. According to their lunar calendar we are in the last days of the Year of the Rat. The Year of the Ox breaks forth with the dawn next Monday, January 26.

That will mark the beginning of 15 day-long festivities stretching to February 9th, the Lantern Festival. An even more colorful event than the New Year Day. In the old days this was much like a combination of our Thanksgiving and Christmas festivals. The Kitchen gods were thrown out and good luck couplets on every gate and entrance-way. Red packets of pocket change for the children, good or bad!

There is much more to the New Year tradition than the names of animals, but that is the most well-know element to non-Chinese peoples.

In Chinese communities around the world there are many New Year's superstitions. (We have lots of traditions too: kissing at midnight; the first person to enter your home that day will have an influence on your life that year; all bills should be paid off, no carrying over debts; do not wash the dishes on New Year's Day; must eat black-eyed peas; etc.)

For the Chinese, one of their superstitions is the long-held idea that people born on the different years also feature different traits and characters. (They also stress paying all debts before the first day of the New Year.)

Anyone born during the Year of the Ox is thought to become a powerful leader. Like the Ox, this person is considered to be dependable, calm and modest. They are said, like the Ox, capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint. This person would not thinking of living off credit cards. They have many friends.

That is the kind of report people want when they go see a fortuneteller. So most of these 12 animal-years stress how good they are. There are some negatives which are generally offset by pleasant traits.

Generally speaking if you were born in 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, you were born in the Year of the Ox. The Year of the Ox ends Feb. 13, 2010 with the beginning of the Year of the Tiger, Feb. 14, 2010 – what a valentine the tigers will have.

The 12 years, in order, are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. The Rat will be back and start it all over on Feb. 5, 2020.

Last week's column on the events of Jan. 20, 2009 (Obama's Inauguration) and Jan. 20, 1788 (founding of African church) was enjoyable to write. Possibly because of the hope that fills these days of having a new president. An actual man at the helm. He will need our prayers as his plate is overflowing. So we pray his cup will also overflow.

Last week I did forget to mention another memorable thing that happened on January 20th. The year was 1930. The occasion was the very first radio broadcast of "The Lone Ranger" from WXYZ, Detroit. I missed hearing that first broadcast of my masked friend and hero because I was only nine days old and there is no record of our rented home had a radio.

Monday, January 12, 2009


One of the most disturbing wars in history is the one that began with the British protectorate rule over Palestine. Begun in the 1920s, the "Holy Land" war continues between the Arabs and the Jews to this day. With such tremendous hatred for one another, will a solution ever be found?

While teaching at Houston Baptist University 30 years ago I invited an Israeli diplomat to my class. One of the students was the son of missionaries to the city of Nazareth. In the course of Q and A, the student asked about Palestine refugees. The diplomat immediately told my student there was no such place as Palestine.

The student responded: "Well, sir, I was born there." This is but another of the extreme examples of the contempt the modern nation of Israel holds for the original inhabitants of a little strip of land on the western shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Israelis of today claim the land first belonged to them. Back, even before pre-recorded history, a man named Abraham, called "the father of the Jews," immigrated from modern-day Iraq to Palestine's land of the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites and numbers of unknown (to us) tribes.

Around 500 years before Christ, the Israel Kingdom was destroyed. The area has been ruled since by everybody and their cousins.

An attempt to find a homeland for the dispersed Jews of the world began in the late 19th century in Europe. Theodore Herzl is considered the founder of what has come to be known as Zionism. It did not catch on until the British took control of Palestine.

"Zionism is a movement for the restoration of a Jewish national state in Palestine. After the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948, Zionism became largely a movement to obtain aid for Israel's development." (New Standard Encyclopedia, Volume 19)

Herzl wanted to establish a Jewish state free of anti-Semitism. His movement began to jell in 1918 when the British took over Palestine from the Turks (Turkey was on the losing side in World War I). It was then that the British with Herzl and others prompting the Balfour Declaration:

"His Majesty's government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

That this decision would not prejudice the civil and religious rights of the Palestine people (who had lived there for thousands of years) was wishful thinking.

Palestine was invaded in 1948 and the local people pushed out of their homes. Some Arabs were paid a little money for their land and homes, but they were made second-class citizen if they stayed. Leon Uris wrote his popular novel "Exodus," about the time of the invasion. I have never understood his title. The word Exodus means "to go out," and the Jews were moving in.

A number of ultra-conservative Christian leaders are of the opinion the 1948 take-over of Palestine is prophesied in the Bible. They see it as the beginning of the end-time. Now, Jesus can return to the earth and set up his perfect kingdom with the Jews back in a new "Israel."

The Israel of Bible times and the modern nation by that name have absolutely nothing in common. God did not return the Jews to Palestine. The British government aided by the United States and the Zionist lobbyist created the political Israel. Without American military aid of billions of dollars every year there would not be an Israel today. (Israel tops the list as receiving the most of our foreign aid to any country.)

Today the West Bank of the Jordan River, west of the Kingdom of Jordan, is home of the Palestine Authority. Then in the tiny Gaza Strip bordered by Egpyt, next to the Mediterranean Sea, is the other Palestine war-like Hamas party.

In 2007 Israel blockaded Gaza. The U.S. government went along while the people continue to suffer. Now, since Hamas began shooting rockets into Israel, killing less than a dozen Israelites. Israel responded with air raids and a bombardment that is more than "an eye for an eye." There is widespread unemployment and poverty in Gaza. Electricity and fuel supplies are limited. Water and Sewage a mess.

Our former president kept saying Israel had a right to protect its people. True, but how about some help for those who had their land and future taken from them in 1948?

There is no solution on the horizon. I wish someone had the wisdom to bring peace to the whole Middle East, but little can be done until the Israeli-Palestine problem is solved. God told old Israel not to trust in the power of Egypt to survive. Today's Israel might consider the same thing regarding America.

One thing is certain, more military action will not bring peace. (Besides huge aid to Israel, the USA sells and exports more arms than any country in the world. Not a hopeful sign for peace.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Last November, Senator Barack Obama entered into history as the first black to be elected president of the United States. Next Tuesday he will take the oath of office and become the 44th president of our country.

Like any politician, he made many promises. He promised change, he wants to overcome centuries of prejudice and even fulfill Martin Luther King's dream. A man should not be judged by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

He promised that a "new dawn of American leadership is at hand." Barack Obama was realistic when he told us: "There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face."

I will always be honest with you! What a promise!

A long time ago the author of "1984," George Orwell, wrote:
"In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness" (from "Politics and the English Language").

George Orwell's attack on the use of obfuscation by national leaders to hide unpleasant truths from the populace is a cynical and too often true, picture of many leader's stance. That is what makes Barack Obama's promises so powerful. You feel it comes from his heart. It is not political speech. He may not accomplish all his dreams and promises. He does not claim to be perfect, but the soul of America has been given a lift, a real change, an opportunity to breathe again.

It is well-documented that no new president has ever come into office with so much to do. An economic crisis few of us fully understand. We just know it is bad. Two huge foreign wars and possibility of more if the wrong thing is said or done by some egoist.

"America, we are better than the last eight years." the President-Elect said. But he recognized we cannot walk alone. This is what the rest of the world has picked up on. Working with friends, talking to enemies, all to make a more sensible and peaceful world.

Next Tuesday, January 20, history will be made as a black man, a courageous, determined man, will assume the highest office in the land. I can't help but remember that Sunday night in a San Francisco church when the black pastor put his hand on a little black boy's head, saying he could become president someday. That was 1962 and while I agreed with the statement, I really doubted in my heart I would live to see such a thing come to past.

I don't know what happened to that little boy, but he is of the generation of Barack Obama. I hope he has lived to see the "promised land" of this January 20th.

Digging around in history I found more related history to the date of January 20th. That 221 years ago, on that day, 1788, the Pioneer African Baptist Church was organized in the deep, slave-holding city of Savannah, Georgia. Change may be slow in coming, but with thanksgiving to God, it is coming.


Saturday, January 3, 2009


The church is salt for society, not a society unto itself.

How often, when we go to church, is there prayer for the on-going tragedy of Iraq and Afghanistan? For the unnumbered millions of Iraqis forced from their homes, their country, their families. These up-rooted children will never be able to shake off the trauma of these years.

Neither will our military of 160,000 men and women and the mercenaries (construction and security personnel-- that now out-number our military) return from this war unscarred. We see it already in the growing divorce rate among the military families; record soldier suicides and hundreds of AWOL cases.

As we gather for worship there is an occasional prayer for our military stranded in a war with no end in sight. We usually remember to pray when one of the congregation or our area is killed or lost limbs.

You who have read this far may say, "Bro. Towery, I did not pick up my paper today to be reminded of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan... can't you be more cheerful and quit going on and on about stuff we can do nothing about and would rather forget?"

"Americans, have not merely abandoned the war;" writes Frank Rich, "they don't want to hear anything that might remind them of it."

I wish I could forget the war. I long to put this totally unnecessary invasion and occupation of Iraqi out of my mind. Even if I could, I could not get it out of my heart. The next generation is going to suffer more than those of other wars. They have been ordered into the worst kind of "impossible dream" by our national leadership. Such adventurism in the name of "our-kind-of-freedom" will make healing almost impossible for everyone it touches.

We can still pray. Pray for the children who suffer the most, both in Iraq and here. Our young now play war games on their computers; leave high school and join the army to find how miss-led they were by the glory of war and "winning" above all else. The results of these years scar in so many hidden ways.

Not only is little prayer offered at church, but most of our entertainment world continues to whirl. I never see a new bumper sticker "support the troops." I guess they sold all they could and are now spending all their time producing 2008 political quips. Take a look at the football stadiums on Saturdays and Sundays. Everything goes on as if there were no war. America is not at war, only less than one-half of one percent is involved – the servicemen/women and families.

You say, "what does prayer do?" If I knew what prayer actually does, I could go to the front of the class. Praying is believing. It is reason with the blinders off. The results of prayer is beyond our wildest dreams. We lay out our heart's concern before a loving, all-knowing God, and remember the verse, "God makes wars to cease" (Psalms 46:9). He just did not tell us when! That is why the Bible urges us to stay in an attitude of prayer – pray without ceasing.

The church was meant to be salt for society, not to just become a society unto itself. Otherwise "church" is no different from The Odd Fellows or the Lion's Club. Salt is what makes ordinary food taste outstanding. When salt loses it strength, it is thrown out. Too many churches have become too involved internally with their own wants, needs and hurts. Churches that are in-grown become their own society, apart from the society they were to invigorate. They have lost touch with their original mission (Look it up: Luke 4:16-21).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Hope for New Year ?

JANUARY 1, 2009

Taiwan's ex-President, Chen Shui-bian, has been returned to prison pending his trial on corruption charges, after a court reversed a decision to free him. There was a risk he could collude with other suspects, destroy evidence and flee the island. He is charged with embezzling government funds, fraud and money-laundering.

High officials crimes are not limited to our USA. Human nature is the same and some tend to think they can get away with anything. Sad part is --- too many do get away with their evil plans and deeds. Read G.B. Trudeau's book full of quotes from the Iraq invasion and occupation.

MIDDLE EAST: This seventh day of Israeli air strikes on Gaza do not stop the Palestinian rocket-lobbing. This half-century struggle of death began when the UN allowed Jews to found the new Israel while also giving the Palestinians a national home. New Israel (nothing to do with the biblical Israel) pushed out the Palestinians and the displaced Arab Palestinians got nothing but refugee camps. GWB was 100 percent for Israel. Pray for BHO to be more even-handed and the one who can, at the very least, begin the end of this useless, ceaseless horror. That's what the people want. Problem is the leaders want power, might and total control.

For far too many people 2009 is not beginning in a happy way.